Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Our weekly look around the Seattle Mariners' minor leagues shines the light on a very rare pitching performance from the Midwest League and highlights five other prospects and their weeks that stood out.

Each Monday during the minor league season, I will give our readers a rundown of the best and worst from the minor league week that was within the Seattle Mariners system. The focus will be to concentrate only on true prospects, but if any player has an exceptionally noteworthy good (or bad) week, he could appear here as well. This isn't necessarily an in-depth "stock going up" or "stock going down" on the player, just simply a recap of their week.

The goal is to not only keep you up to date on the goings on, but to try and give you a better look of what talent is in the system by spreading the coverage around.

The highlights this past week saw a rare accomplishment from one pitcher that we've highlighted before this season, an outfielder continuing his late roll and a young control pitcher with his best start to date. We also look at three that didn't fair quite so well. Here we go!


Jordan Shipers - Clinton Lumber Kings: 0.00 ERA, .000 oAVG, 0.22 WHIP, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO
Shipers had turned in some pretty impressive pitching performances this season already, but his 9-inning no-hitter against the West Michigan White Caps on Wednesday was the cherry on top of his pitching clinic Sundae that he's been crafting in 2012. And while he only got two strikeouts in the performance -- an unusually low number in a game such as this -- he worked in 15 ground ball outs as he continued to work on the bottom half of the zone for the LumberKings.

"Nobody on this team works harder," Clinton's announcer Chad Seely told me earlier in the year when we were talking about Shipers. He takes his craft very seriously and knows that it won't be easy as he advances towards his goal of making the major leagues someday. But this no-hitter was a little easy: just 93 pitches in Shipers second complete game of the year. Pitching to contact is something that the Mariners PD staff truly believes in, and Shipers is taking their lead and running with it with some encouraging results.

James Jones - High Desert Mavericks: .440/.464/.720 (11-25), 2B, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 6 SO, 2 SB
Jones continued his torrid stretch that has now reached more than two full months by leading the California League in RBI this past week and stretching his streak of games with at least one RBI to six. Since a forgettable April to start the 2012 season (.200/.263/.271 in 19 games) Jones is hitting .326 (79-242) in his last 63 games with 31 extra base hits, including 11 HR, and 49 RBI for the Mavericks.

Strikeouts are still a legitimate concern as Jones now has 92 on the season in 82 games, including two games of four K's in the last 10 games. His home/road splits are eye-popping, too (as are most hitters from High Desert), but Jones has been improving on those numbers of late and the same can be said about his platoon splits. Playing solid defense in center and right, hitting just under .300 now (.298) and slugging just under .500 (.497), he just needs some fine-tuning to get himself ready for a move to Double-A into a more neutral hitting environment to see what kind of player he can truly be.

Dylan Unsworth - Everett Aquasox: 3.00 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 SO
Unsworth came to Everett this year with the profile of a slender right-hander with great command and pinpoint control. After all, in his debut season with the Mariners in 2010, the then 17-year-old walked only one batter the entire season, spanning 11 appearances and 50 1/3 innings pitched. He continued to live up to that high example in season two as he sported a 4.6 SO/BB ratio last year in Pulaski. But Everett clearly is the biggest challenge from a competition standpoint that the now 19-year-old native of South Africa has faced.

Unsworth's first two starts for the AquaSox were very good but then he hit somewhat of a rough patch with that command, and it showed in his results. If this latest start is any indication, that has been righted in a big way. Unsworth struck out nine Dust Devils and allowed only five baserunners in his six strong innings of work Saturday Night in a 6-3 Everett win on the way to his 4th win of the season. Unsworth needs that command to succeed as he advances through the tougher levels, and his performance this past week leads you to believe that his past numbers aren't a fluke.


Steven Hensley - Tacoma Rainiers: 2 G, 2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 0 SO
Hensley didn't work a lot this past week thanks to the Triple-A All-Star break, but he wasn't good when he did. He faced 10 batters, getting six outs and allowing all four of the other hitters to score. It is the continuance of a troubling pattern for Hensley, who now has an 8.64 ERA, 1.98 WHIP and 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio in the nine games since his promotion from Jackson.

In fact, Hensley has really only had one good, crisp, impressive outing since arriving in Tacoma -- his first. Despite a great reliever's build and good stuff, there has long been concern about the way that Hensley's abilities don't match the results, and it just appears that will continue to be magnified as the 2008 4th round pick faces more advanced competition.

Jabari Blash - Clinton LumberKings: .294/.429/.353 (5-17), 2B, RBI, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 10 SO
Blash is getting some hits for Clinton of late and did have a .782 OPS this past week, but the tall, strong, super athletic native of the Virgin Islands continued to have trouble putting the ball in play, striking out 10 times in five games. Blash now has 27 multi-strikeout games in 2012 for Clinton, which is a level that he played at for part of the 2011 season, too.

Because the strikeouts aren't going away and because Jabari's over-selectiveness continues to be a problem, he has found himself not in the middle of the LumberKings batting order more and more lately as it is hard for the coaching staff to trust in him in that position. He still leads the club in HR (10) and BB (44) and ranks 3rd in total bases (106) and 4th in OBP (.343), but Blash has the talent to be so much more than he is right now.

Hersin Martinez - DSL Mariners: .000/.000/.000 (0-14), R, 8 SO
Martinez was a seemingly pretty big international grab for Seattle and he came to the organization with the promise of big right-handed power -- perhaps the biggest in his class. But, oh those strikeouts. The eight this past week is bad, but it isn't out of the ordinary at all for Martinez thus far, which is why I thought it deserved mentioning.

Martinez has struck out two or more times in half of his 32 games in the DSL and has 46 punchouts on the year -- twice as many as the number of hits (23) he's accumulated to date. The right-handed hitter has racked up a K in 39 of his 91 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers to date and, because of the lack of contact, his booming power has translated into just three doubles, two HR and a .291 SLG so far. Martinez is a physical specimen (6-foot-5, 220 lbs) and this is the 17-year-old's first extended taste of pro-style competition, but it isn't looking like he is a sure bet or a fast mover.

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